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A Deadly Caterpillar With a Fatal Sting

Updated on June 6, 2015

Deadly Caterpillar | This Caterpillar Can Kill You!

This is the larva of Lonomia obliqua, a species of moth that lives in South America. It eats leaves and turns into a pretty brown moth. And it can kill you.

The spines that cover the caterpillar's body contain a devastating toxin that can cause internal bleeding, including bleeding into the brain. All you have to do to be stung by this deadly caterpillar is to come into contact with the spines on the surface of its body. The unfortunate people who accidentally come into contact with this creature may not even notice the sting at first, but the symptoms quickly progress, and within a few days the victim may lapse into a coma and eventually die.

More About This Deadly Caterpillar

This caterpillar has killed literally hundreds of people. Read on for more information about caterpillars in the Lonomia genus.


Deadly Caterpillar: Lonomia obliqua

This is another view of the spiny Lonomia moth caterpillar. It's colorization gives it excellent camouflage when it gathers together on the trunks of trees. This is a problem: when someone working outside stops to rest, they might lean on a tree covered with resting Lonomia obliqua caterpillars. The resulting stings from these caterpillars can be enough to kill, especially when the victim is a farmer working in rural areas far from modern medical centers. If untreated for a day or two, the bleeding that is ultimately fatal may be too advanced for the victim to be resuscitated.


By Centro de Informações Toxicológicas de Santa Catarina ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Deadly Caterpillar: The Venom of Lonomia obliqua

Lonomia caterpillars are most common in southern Brazil, where they kill roughly three people a year. The quality of their venom that causes death is an anticoagulant effect that results in uncontrolled bleeding, and sometimes death. On the plus side, the special qualities of Lonomia obliqua venom is of interest to the medical profession: people with clotting disorders may need a medically-administered caterpillar sting!

Have You Ever Been Stung by a Caterpillar?

Have You Ever Been Stung by a Caterpillar?

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Actual Video of a Crawling Lonomia obliqua Caterpillar

Watch this gorgeous but deadly caterpillar as it crawls across a table (look, but don't touch!).

Skin Reaction of the Type Caused by Lonomia Envenomation

Initially, the sting of the Lonomia caterpillar causes a minor skin irritation. Often, the sting doesn't get any worse. But on some occasions, the sting gets progressively worse until the victim needs to be hospitalized. People who are allergic to insect stings are especially susceptible to the venom of Lonomia stings. In addition to the bleeding disorder brought about by the caterpillar's sting, there may be complications arising from allergic reactions.

THE DEADLY 25 - An excellent, authoritative book on dangerous animals

25 of the Most Poisonous Animals in the World! Incredible Facts, Photos and Video Links to Some of the Most Venomous Animals on Earth (25 Amazing Animals Series Book 3)
25 of the Most Poisonous Animals in the World! Incredible Facts, Photos and Video Links to Some of the Most Venomous Animals on Earth (25 Amazing Animals Series Book 3)

Amazon Review: This is the best book of deadly animals I have ever read! The book has great pictures of each animal and, the best part, at least to me, is the addition of a video to go along with each animal. The information about each creature is wonderful too. It's not so scientific that you can't enjoy it and not so long-winded that you get bored reading it. Also, there are 1-5 ratings for how deadly their venom is and what their threat to humans is. I highly recommend this book for anyone of any age!


Deadly Caterpillar: a cluster of Lonomia obliqua caterpillars

Lonomia is the name of a group of moths that occurs throughout Central and South America. The caterpillars are all protected by spines that contain strong venom. When another animal comes into contact with the spines, the poison causes pain and swelling. This is an excellent defensive tactic, and there are other poisonous caterpillars throughout the world that can sting. The Lonomia group, however, is unusual in the power of the venom. In the case of Lonomia obliqua, the venom can cause a runaway reaction in humans.

Lonomia caterpillars often rest in large groups. It's thought that this concentration of venom makes the protection even more powerful.

By Centro de Informações Toxicológicas de Santa Catarina ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Deadly Caterpillar: The Lonomia obliqua moth - This is the moth that the caterpillar of L. obliqua becomes

Lonomia moths are beautifully camouflaged to look like a fallen leaf. The lateral line across both wings and the light brown color mimic the shape, pattern and color of the leaves that litter the forest floor in areas where the moth lives. The caterpillar spends its life eating leaves, and the moth's job is to find another moth of the same species and mate, thus continuing the animal's life cycle.

By Benjamint444 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Raise Your Own Non-Deadly Caterpillars - This is a good kit -- easy to use, easy to watch them grow

There are a lot of caterpillar kits out there but this one is a favorite -- it's closer to the one scientists use in labs. The caterpillars eat, grow, and turn into butterflies as you watch. I love checking in with them every morning and seeing which ones have grown, shed their skins, or hatched into butterflies.

Live Butterfly Kit: SHIPPED WITH 5 Painted Lady Caterpillars Now-Hanging Cage
Live Butterfly Kit: SHIPPED WITH 5 Painted Lady Caterpillars Now-Hanging Cage

You can raise your own caterpillars -- the non-deadly kind!


The Lonomia Obliqua Moth

Unlike the deadly caterpillar that creates it, the moth of Lonomia obliqua is not toxic.

By Benjamint444 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

What Do You Think?

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    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 20 months ago

      Very interesting hub. I hope this moth doesn't migrate to the U.S. like the fire ants have.

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